Today there are thought to be perhaps 15,000 Armenians remaining in Baku after most fled in the early 1990s following anti-Armenian pogroms. Those remaining are almost exlusively cases of mixed marriages, usually where the wife is Armenian and the husband Azeri.
Before the arrival of Turkish tribes a thousand years ago, Azerbaijan was a Christian state known as Caucasian Albania, or in Armenian Aghvan (sp?). Their church followed the same branch of Christianity as the Armenian Church, and they used the same alphabet.
On the lowlands, the Turkic conquers began to assimilate the local population, who slowly adopted the language and religion of the Turks. In the mountains, pockets of Christians remained, and the Albanian Church remained intact until the 1800s, when the Russian rulers abolished the Albanian Church and what remained was absorbed into the Armenian Church. The remaining Albanians are today known as Udis. The Turkic inhabitants of Azerbaijan were known as Tatars by both Russian authorities as well as outside observers. This lasted until the founding of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918, when the term "Azerbaijanis" or "Azeris" fell into common use.
Most of present-day Azerbaijan roughly corresponds to the former Baku and Elisavetpol governates of the Russian Empire (parts of the latter eventually became what are today the provinces of Syunik and Tavush in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh). The concept of the Azerbaijan ethnic identity came into being for the first time with the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) in 1918. Prior to that time, the term "Azerbaijan" had only been applied to a region in Northern Iran while the term "Arran" was applied to what is now the Republic of Azerbaijan. Likewise, the Turkic inhabitants of the area were known as Tatars by both Russian authorities as well as outside observers. This lasted until the founding of the Azerbaijan SSR, when the term "Azerbaijanis" or "Azeris" fell into common use.
The Musavat (Equality) Party founded and controlled the ADR for most of its short existence. Seeing Ottoman Turkey and the Young Turks as potential allies they named their country "Azerbaijan." This move promoted the concept of Pan-Turkism for if the Ottoman Empire wished they could unify the area with region in northern Iran and then merge the combined territory with the Ottoman Empire, of course, wiping the existence of independent Armenia from the earth. This ideology led to constant clashes between the ADR and the Democratic Republic of Armenia (DRA), especially in regards to the ownership of Karabakh, Nakhichevan, Syunik, and Kazakh-Shamshadin (today the province of Tavush in Armenia and the rayon of Qazakh in Azerbaijan). This also led to mutual ethnic cleansings on both sides.
After the Soviet takeover of the area, the name "Azerbaijan" was retained because the Soviets hoped to expand into the region of Northern Iran (something that became apparent during the joint Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran). Furthermore, the Soviet government also began teaching the idea of a "patitioned Azerbaijan" in Azerbaijani school textbooks (making the divide between the Azerbaijan SSR and the Azerbaijan region in Northern Iran sound similiar to the conflict over East and West Germany and North and South Korea).
(Check accuracy of the text above!!! -Raffi)
Aliev Says Armenian Genocide A 'Fantasy'
Azerbaijan, which lost land in a war with neighboring Armenia, on Friday condemned French draft legislation making it a crime to deny the genocide of Armenians by Ottoman Turks and said the massacre was a "fantasy".
Azeri President Ilham Aliev, speaking in English, criticized the bill, which was approved by France's lower house of parliament earlier this month causing fury in Turkey.
"It has nothing to do with reality. The so-called genocide is the fantasy of the Armenian lobby ... to justify their aggression against other countries to present themselves as the victims," Aliev told foreign journalists. He said the bill was a "blatant violation" of democracy.
France is home to Europe's largest share of the Armenian diaspora.
Azerbaijan, which shares with Turkey the Muslim faith, common ethnic roots and a similar language, lost its Nagorno-Karabakh territory to its Christian neighbor Armenia in the 1990s during a full-scale military conflict in which some 35,000 people were killed.